The Symposium on Strengthening Legal Frameworks to Combat Wildlife Crime in Central and West Africa brought together criminal justice authorities and national wildlife management authorities to discuss ways to strengthen legal frameworks to tackle illegal trade and improve control of legal trade. Five UN entities shared their expertise on illicit trafficking in wildlife and strengthening wildlife legislation.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) organized the Symposium, which convened in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 11-12 September 2018. Participants representing criminal justice authorities and national wildlife management authorities came from over 19 francophone and lusophone African countries to attend the event.
In advance of the Symposium, a survey found that countries in Central and West Africa apply more lax penalties for wildlife crime compared to East Africa and Asia, which apply tougher penalties, both in terms of prison time and monetarily. In Central and West Africa, the average prison time for wildlife crime is two months, with an average maximum prison time of five years. Participants from Central and West Africa acknowledged the need for tougher penalties in the region, saying they will work to increase penalties for wildlife crime in Central and West Africa.
UNEP presented analysis it had conducted for an upcoming report on the status and gaps in combating illegal trade in wildlife and forest products. UNEP identified a lack of legal provisions for dealing with organized crime and corporations as a key gap. UNDP described the challenges of addressing wildlife crime in the context of country and regional instability, including in countries like Angola and Mali. UNDP highlighted opportunities for countries to implement conservation programmes and improve their legal frameworks with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
African governments will redouble their efforts to prevent, detect and penalize wildlife crimes.
DESA presented the UN Forest Instrument and the UN Strategic Plan for Forests. These instruments address the illegal harvest and trade of forest and wildlife products, the role of sustainable natural resource management in preventing and combating illegal harvest and trade, and collaboration among governments and local communities to tackle illegal harvest and trade.
The UNDOC introduced a forthcoming guide on drafting legislation to combat wildlife crime. The guide will be launched during the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, on 17 October.
The CITES Secretariat explained that CITES is the only international legally binding instrument with an agreed definition of illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, and described the Convention’s minimum requirements for national legal frameworks for controlling trade in fauna and flora, emphasizing that effective legislation should also take into account the needs of rural communities that live alongside wildlife. She said that 15 of the 19 countries participating in the Symposium still need to put in place additional measures to effectively implement and enforce CITES.
According to CITES and UNEP, governments across Africa have committed to “redouble their efforts to prevent, detect and penalize” wildlife crimes. Governments will strengthen their legal frameworks, increase regional and national cooperation, collaborate with local communities to prevent and address the illegal harvest and trade in wildlife and forest products, and raise awareness on the drivers and impacts of wildlife crime. Participants also suggested raising awareness among national parliamentarians on the need to control trade and combat illegal trade to enable them to develop and support strengthened legal frameworks.
Symposium participating countries include Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger and Togo.